The story of Gabriel Quijano is a tragic one. At the tender age of three years old, he went missing from his home in Orem, Utah, along with his mother Emily Quijano. For two long years, their family and friends searched for them, hoping against hope that they were still alive. Then, in October 2017, there was a breakthrough. Emily’s boyfriend, Christopher Richard Poulson, was charged with aggravated murder in their disappearances.
Poulson’s arrest was just the beginning of a long and painful process for Gabriel’s loved ones. For nearly two more years, they waited for justice, hoping that Poulson would be held accountable for his heinous crimes. Finally, in August 2019, there was a confession. Poulson admitted to killing Gabriel and Emily, and he led police to their remains. But even then, the agony wasn’t over. There was still the matter of Poulson’s sentencing, and the possibility that he could escape justice by changing his plea.
The details of Gabriel’s disappearance and death are heartbreaking. According to Poulson’s confession, he was babysitting Gabriel when he “severely” injured him. The exact nature of the injury is unclear, but it was serious enough that Gabriel died during the night. Poulson then panicked and put the boy to bed, hoping that no one would notice. When Emily came home from her massage therapy classes and went to sleep, Poulson did the same. But when he woke up in the morning and discovered that Gabriel had died, he made a terrible decision. He shot Emily while she slept, in order to keep her from finding out about her son’s death.
It’s difficult to imagine the pain and suffering that Gabriel’s loved ones have endured over the past six years. The loss of a child is always devastating, but to lose a child in such a horrific manner is beyond comprehension. And to have to wait for years to find out what happened, and then to have to endure a lengthy legal process, must have been unbearable.
The fact that Poulson was able to strike a plea deal is also troubling. While it’s understandable that prosecutors would want to avoid a lengthy trial, it seems like a thirty-year sentence is a relatively light punishment for such a heinous crime. And the fact that Poulson was able to escape a life sentence by agreeing to help police find the bodies is difficult to stomach. It’s hard to imagine what Gabriel’s loved ones must be feeling, knowing that the man who killed their child and family member could potentially be out of prison in just three decades.
Ultimately, the decision of whether or not to allow Poulson to change his plea will be up to the judge. It’s impossible to know what the judge will decide, but hopefully, they will take into account the horrific nature of Poulson’s crimes and the impact that they’ve had on Gabriel’s loved ones. While nothing can ever bring Gabriel back or undo the pain that his family has experienced, at the very least, they deserve to see justice done. They deserve to know that the person who took Gabriel from them will be held accountable for his actions.
Gabriel’s story is a reminder that there are still so many missing children out there, waiting to be found. According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, there were more than 460,000 reports of missing children in the United States in 2019 alone. While the vast majority of these cases are resolved quickly and without incident, there are still far too many cases where children go missing for years, or are never found at all.